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Obama warms to super PACs

By Walt Braun

It doesn’t take much to imagine President Barack Obama, who this week made it clear he would gladly accept support from super PACs, explaining his decision.

He has to get re-elected in order to keep this country on the course. Super PACs are legal, if distasteful, and it takes behavior that’s not always tasteful to get re-elected. In other words, the end justifies the means.

He wouldn’t call it a sellout. Yet it wasn’t so long ago that he was all but accusing super PACS of corrupting American democracy. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests. They should be decided by the American people,” he said.

While hoping the American people see things his way, he’s not taking any chances. One would be foolish to turn away assistance from “America’s most powerful interests.”

Super PACS are allowed largely because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. Their clout already has been evident in the Republican primary in South Carolina, where super PAC money helped Newt Gingrich stun Mitt Romney; and in Florida, where super PACs that support Mr. Romney inundated that state’s electronic media with negative ads that helped him cruise to a lopsided victory.

What’s more, last year alone, super PACs associated with Karl Rove, a Bush confidant and Republican power broker, raised more than $50 million to use against President Obama. Small wonder, then, that Jim Messina, President Obama’s campaign manager, said the campaign is encouraging super PAC support. Given Republicans reliance on super PACs, Democrats could not “unilaterally disarm.”

That’s almost laughable; the Obama campaign already was expected to have about $1 billion for the 2012 campaign.

We don’t know whether the campaign with the deepest pockets will win, but the money matters. We’ll concede that presidential campaigns have to be ready for just about anything — and that the more money they have, the better positioned they are to either attack adversaries or defend against attacks. If history is a guide, this money will be spent less on touting a candidate’s assets than on demeaning his opponent. Fairness is not a consideration; neither, sadly, is dignity.

President Obama, who once was concerned that super PACs were “a threat to our democracy,” now apparently regards them as essential to his re-election prospects.

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